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U.S. President Joe Biden said Friday that around 60 million Americans are eligible for a booster shot against the coronavirus.

His announcement came after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved a third Pfizer shot for those 65 and older, frontline workers and adults with underlying medical conditions.

Biden urged eligible Americans to get COVID-19 vaccine booster shots, and he said he would get his own shot as soon as possible.

In comments from the White House Friday, Biden said, “Like your first and second shot, the booster shot is free and easily accessible.”

The CDC approved the boosters for Americans 65 or older; frontline workers such as teachers, health care workers and others whose jobs place them at risk of contracting COVID-19; and those ages 50 to 64 with underlying conditions.

The booster shot will be available for those who received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at least six months ago. The White House said Friday 20 million Americans are eligible for the shot immediately, while a total of 60 million Pfizer-shot recipients will be eligible for boosters once they reach the six-month mark.

The European Union’s drug watchdog said Thursday it plans to decide in early October whether to approve a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for those over age 16.

Elsewhere, Norway’s government said Friday it would end all remaining coronavirus restrictions on Saturday.

“It is 561 days since we introduced the toughest measures in Norway in peacetime. … Now the time has come to return to a normal daily life,” Prime Minister Erna Solberg told a news conference. 

In Australia, health officials announced Friday that more than half the population had been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

A wave of coronavirus infections has led to lockdowns in Australia’s two largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, as well as the capital, Canberra. 

Health officials in South Korea said Friday the country set a record for daily cases with 2,434 in the past 24 hours, surpassing a record set last month. 

Officials said that although cases were spiking, the mortality rate and the number of severe cases remain relatively low. They attributed that in large part to a vaccination campaign that prioritized older people and those who were at high risk for disease.

In Singapore, the health ministry announced it was tightening restrictions to fight a wave of coronavirus infections. The new policies include limiting social gatherings to two people, down from five.

The ministry also reported 1,650 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, the highest since the beginning of the pandemic. 

Earlier this week, Singapore said 92% of the population had been fully vaccinated. Officials said about 98% of the confirmed coronavirus cases in the past four weeks were in people who had mild or no symptoms. 

Russia reported 828 deaths from COVID-19 in past 24 hours on Friday, the country’s highest daily number of the pandemic. The toll breaks the record set a day earlier.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said Thursday in a video address to the United Nations General Assembly, “It is an indictment on humanity that more than 82% of the world’s vaccine doses have been acquired by wealthy countries, while less than 1% has gone to low-income countries,” 

The African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 4% of Africa’s population is fully vaccinated.

“The hoarding and inequitable distribution with the resultant uneven vaccination patterns across the globe is not acceptable,” Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa said in a prerecorded message to the assembly on Thursday.

“Vaccine nationalism is self-defeating and contrary to the mantra that ‘no one is safe until everyone is safe.’ Whether in the global North or South, rich or poor, old or young, all people of the world deserve access to vaccines.”

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

 


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